Sunday, January 25, 2015

Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies

Warning (Seriously): These cookies are rich, fudgy, velvety, and oh, so addictive.

I have a serious problem. I just tried this recipe which is posted at Picklee last week and from the first bite, it was true love. I have since made it several times with different variations I thought of and you can try even more of your own. But it really is insanely superb as is! I included the amounts of the variation ingredients I used in my experiments, but feel free to adjust the amounts. The recipe only makes about 24 small-ish cookies so once I doubled them and they turned out great, but that's dangerous making so many.

I used semisweet chocolate chips, but Picklee calls for bittersweet. Other people commented on Jordan's blog that they used milk chocolate chips. So use whichever you like. I used slightly less sugar than was called for and will probably continue to do that. They use no oil or butter (yay!!) and no flour. If you use gluten-free versions of the other ingredients, it is a really delish gluten-free dessert. The trick to these is whipping up the egg whites to soft peaks! Make sure the egg white are at the soft peak stage before adding sugar and continuing on with the recipe. The outside is a nice crisp and the inside is melty goodness. Tip for eating the next day if there are any leftover-- you can pop them in the microwave for like 6 seconds and they're all melty again.

There wasn't a single variation that I made that I didn't like. The raspberry ones were a bit "wet" so I baked them an additional minute and they worked out great. I couldn't taste or see the flaxseed meal when I added it so I will be adding it to the cookies every time for some healthy goodness. (Shhhh! Don't tell my daughter Sabrina.)

Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips (about 9 oz.)
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 c. powdered sugar, divided (plus 1/2 c. for cookie coating)
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T. cornstarch
1/4 t. salt
Variations (add one if desired):
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. almond or orange extract
3 T. coconut
3 T. chopped candy cane
1 T. flaxseed meal
3 T. nuts
3 T. chopped, dried raspberries

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 2 large  baking sheets with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Melt 1 cup chocolate chips in glass bowl in microwave, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Set aside and let cool slightly.

Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar. Continue beating until mixture resembles soft marshmallow cream.

Whisk 1 cup sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Then, on a low speed, add these dry ingredients into the marshmallow cream mixture.

Next, add melted chocolate and any variation additions (candy canes, almond extract, etc.) and mix. Add chocolate chips and mix well.

Place remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar in bowl. Roll 1 rounded tablespoon dough into ball; roll in sugar, coating thickly. Place on prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing 2 inches apart.

Bake until puffed and tops crack, about 10 minutes. Cool on sheets on rack 10 minutes. Transfer to rack, cool.


 Rolled in sprinkles instead of powdered sugar

Candy Cane Pieces

Flaxseed Meal

I shared this link at :
Skip to My Lou.
Joy Love Food and Tumbleweed Contessa

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Beef Sirloin Steak with Baby Spinach

I am trying to learn how to cook beef better since it often turns out tough or dry. I found this Campbell's  recipe and wanted to try it with a few little changes. This is the recipe as I made it. The beef was tender and I loved all the veggies. The sauce also is like a gravy for the mashed potatoes I made.
Beef Sirloin Steak with Baby Spinach
1/4 c. olive oil
2 T. lemon juice
2 t. fresh rosemary or 1 t. dried rosemary leaves 
1 lb. boneless beef sirloin steak, 3/4-inch thick, cut into 4 pieces 
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, sliced (about 1 c.)
1 small red bell pepper, chopped (about 1/2 c.)
1/2 c. julienne carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (10 3/4-oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2 c .water
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 t. dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1 bag (about 7 oz.) fresh baby spinach
Mix marinade ingredients together. Add steak and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

Heat the 1 tablespoon oil in skillet. Add the onion, red pepper, and carrots and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender-crisp, stirring often.

Stir the soup, water, vinegar and rosemary in the skillet and heat to a boil.  Stir in the spinach. Keep warm while cooking steak.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and cook until well browned on both sides and just cooked to desired doneness in middle.  Remove the beef from the skillet.

Plate steak and pour sauce with vegetables on top.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Another Week Already?

This is as close as a photo of my son as I get this week. It's a drawing of him that an investigator gave him. He did give a lot of information about what he's been up to this week after I told him that he wasn't telling us what he's been up to. It's always so good to hear from him.

I can't believe how quick the weeks are going already! The time just flies so quickly when you have so much to do!

I am going to try something a bit different starting next week. I am going to write from my journal to you all, so that you can get more of a day by day feel for how things are for me. I can't promise I'll type up everything, but a synopsis (is that the right word?) or at least a summary, will be included.

This week, I went to a place called Hard-Off right after emailing. It is a recycle shop, but it isn't like anything back home really. The closest it gets is a thrift shop, but that stuff usually isn't as good a quality. I looked for an electronic dictionary to buy, but there wasn't any I could find that were the right kind. I did find out that they have really good deals on musical instruments (and decent quality too), so I will need to take advantage of that if I ever live in Japan after my Mission. We kept running into a guy we met on the bus, and we're fairly certain that he wants to avoid us now, but it was really funny how often we kept seeing him on the streets. A cool experience I had in the evening when we did missionary work was that I guessed where an old investigator's apartment was when we were walking down the road (we were a bit lost).

The next day we had a lesson with an investigator that we see at least once a week, but usually more. He is getting ever closer to baptism, and I am really hoping that he is doing his part to get the witness he needs of the truth of our message. We then got to go to a members house for dinner with the other two missionaries. She made some really good food, including soup with mochi in it (a rice foodstuffs), which I really liked. One of her daughters I found out is a really good artist, and draws really cool anime/manga style stuff.

Wednesday, we met with the same investigator again, then went to visit a less active member with another member. We visited him at his work (he owns a hair salon), and he was busy at the moment, and said to come back the next day. So, instead we went and signed up for a service project to do some snow shoveling. We heard about it from a potential investigator that we met with last week, and we'll probably be doing the service together, so that will be fun. After that we went and visited a different less active member, and found out that he likes basketball, so we'll probably be playing that with him soon. We then got back to the church and taught English class. There were more people that came this week than any other time since I got here, and since there weren't any kids to teach (we usually have an adult and kids class), we split up the class into two groups, an advanced and a beginners. I got to teach the advanced class with my companion. It was a lot of fun, and the lesson was basically made by the seat of our pants.

The next day, we went and visited a woman we met on the street when we were going to a different appointment before new years even happened. She was really happy to hear that we could both play piano, since she's a piano teacher, and so we played some for her. We also had lunch and talked a bit about the main message of our Church (which we described as a focus on families and the fact that God is our Loving Heavenly Father). We aren't sure if she is too interested, but we don't think that she's not. We then went and taught the same investigator from the past two days again (it was his decision to meet with us that often); it was the most we had seen him in a row since he became an investigator. After that we went to visit the less active member that we couldn't visit the previous day. He was a bit busy again, but we managed to talk to him for at least 20 minutes. My companion shared a cool experience that he had the same day, that I want to share with you now. After English class, one of the students gave my companion, Elder O., a letter to give one of the previous missionaries from the area. Not long afterwards, he accidentally lost it in front of the curch, and didn't realize until we got back to the apartment. He said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father to keep it there and keep it safe until we could go by and find it. The next day the other two missionaries were passing the church on the way to the train station, and found the card sitting on top of the snow, completely untouched. It was a miracle and a tender mercy. Another example of how the Lord answers prayers.
After visiting the less active, we then went to a members house, and played in the snow with one of their kids. We dug out a snow tunnel in their yard, and it was really fun. We then went inside and had a quick meal in the genkan (google should have the answer for you ;) ).

The next day we had district meeting with the zone leaders. It was lots of fun, and I learned a lot from them. we went to a ramen restaurant afterwards, and then went to visit a different investigator. While there, he finally was able to understand prayer, and was able to say a sincere prayer in his own words. He is making slow progress, but progress nonetheless. We then had a lesson with an investigator from the other two missionaries, because they had another appointment at the same time. We watched the parable the President Packer told about a boy and the creditor. It was a really good lesson.

Saturday was fun, because we were able to go to a members house and have a lesson with them. One of them is an active member, but her husband is less active. The lesson was really good for them at the time, I felt, and we committed them to pray and read the scriptures more earnestly. We went to see if an old investigator was home, but she wasn't, and it was getting late, so we went home.

Sunday was interesting, because we went to a different town for church. The town is called Fukushima. The ward there is really awesome, and I had a fun time getting to know them. On the way there, our train was going to be an hour late, and then got stuck, so they allowed everyone that was going to be going on that train to ride the shinkansen (the crazy fast trains they have here in Japan). It didn't go fast while we were on it, but riding it was really fun anyway. After church, I explained heads up 7 up and red rover to one of the members who wanted to know some American games to play with her elementary students. After that, we caught a train back to our home town, and tried to visit two people. One of them wasn't home, and the other didn't remember to read a pamphlet that we gave them, so we'll be checking with them again soon.

That is my week love you all!

2015 is the Year of the Ram so someone made this snow ram on New Year's
 In my letter to Alex, I asked him how he has seen or felt our Heavenly Father's love this week and how he has been able to show that love to those around him. Here is his response:

The question of how I've seen my Heavenly Father's love is a tough one to answer, because I feel of His love every day. I have not gotten seriously injured, I stay warm in the snow, I have been led by the spirit down paths that have lead to those who are prepared, and countless other small and simple things. I have done everything I can to try to show my love to others in my example, by smiling at all times, and by simply saying hi to everyone I meet. I try my best to show sincere interest in what they have to say. I have a similar goal to you with prayer, in addition to praying more sincerely and from my heart. I can't say that I post anything to a blog, but I have noticed how an hour of scripture study a day has really blessed my life and faith and testimony. I too have been able to feel the spirit as I do them with real intent. I am glad that you are feeling His love, and are recognizing the gifts he gives you. Thank you so much for sharing your testimony with me!

Something I just thought of while typing is that in the Preach My Gospel, it says something very interesting about prayer. It suggests that as we pray we listen to the spirit for what we should say in the prayer, because God knows what we need before we ask Him. I thought that was very interesting and have been trying to do all I can to do just that. 

I know without a doubt that my Father in Heaven has blessed me and loves me. I know this partially because of the love I feel for those that I have come to meet while on my mission, for I know it to be a piece of God's love.
Elder E., one of the missionaries in the other companionship who shares the apartment, and Elder O., his companion. I was glad to see them acting like boys and that there were clean dishes there. I'm such a momma. 

Alex said this was a really good meal he had at a Chinese restaurant. They don't get invited to eat at member's homes often so it's either restaurants or cooking and I imagine they don't have lots of time to cook. It's funny to me that they serve French fries with the Chinese food.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Prune Brownies

I have a bag of prunes so I looked for a prune brownie recipe to use some of them and found this one at A Taste of Madness. I made them while my kids were at school so they wouldn't know what was in them. They are fudgy and chocolatey and I couldn't tell from the texture or taste that there were prunes. It's nice to know that they don't have much butter and do have some fiber.

My girls were happy to smell that I had baked brownies as soon as they walked in the house. Then one asked, "What's in them?" And I said, "No black beans this time." (Tried that one HERE before and they still remember.) They were still cautious, but tried them. They still kept asking me what was in them. Then Sabrina went over to my computer and saw the recipe on one of my tabs. "I knew there was something sticky in it," she said. Elisa said, "I figured there was something different in them since you never make just plain brownies." They still ate them even after they found out. We all 3 liked them and I have more prunes so I'll be making more sometime.

Prune Brownies
1/4 c. pitted prunes
2 T. water
1/2 c. chocolate chips
2 T. butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line an 8-inch pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang. Set aside.

Place the prunes and the water in a food processor and process until smooth.

Place chocolate chips and butter in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for 1 minute and mix. Keep microwaving for 15 seconds and stirring until smooth. Immediately whisk in the sugar, egg, egg white, prune puree and vanilla until smooth.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flours and cocoa powder. Stir in the chocolate mixture until fully incorporated.
Pour the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for around 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let cool completely in the pan. Using the foil, remove the brownies from the pan, and cut into squares.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lemon Bars and Gloves

Sadly, Alex didn't send any photos this week so I'm using an old one of him. First, I have included his letter to all and then parts of his letter to me. He asked me to send some specific recipes he could make, so I sent them, but mentioned that someone told me they may not have measuring cups and spoons.  His emails came a bit later than sometimes on Sunday night and I was starting to think he might not write. So glad he did because I'm missing him.

This week has been very interesting. The first interesting part which I included in the title was when I tried to make lemon bars. I used a Japanese cookbook, and even then had some trouble with making sure I had translated it correctly. The first batch I made I accidentally mistook the word for "white sugar" for "white flour" when making the top part. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either! I made the next batch with sugar, and it ended up fine! Me and my companion took the bars to two of the less actives in our branch. 
Also this week, we had Zone Training meeting. We had to go to yamagata, a neighboring city ish, and it was lots of fun. I got to seen someone I knew from the MTC, and got to talk with my Mission president and his wife. I had so much fun! I also got to sing a special musical number in the meeting, along with the others in my district, and it went well. The music fell off the stand at the piano though, so two of the elders had to rush over and save the day!

The last thing that I want to mention that happened this week, was the following. We were waiting for a bus, and wen the bus had come in sight, I got my wallet out to get some money. I had gloves on at the time, and also had an umbrella that I was trying to fold up, and getting on the bus at the same time. Through all of it, I hadn't realized that the glove I had taken off to get the money out was no longer in my other hand. I didn't realize it until I sat down. I said a prayer in my head that I'd be able to find my glove, and trusted that God would provide. A little while late, when someone was getting on the bus, she picked up a glove from on the stairs and put it up on the dash board. I saw it, and instantly knew that it was my missing glove. I know that it was an answer to a prayer than one of Heavenly Father's children said in his moment of distress, and I know that He cares about every aspect of our lives, no matter how trivial they may seem compared to the eternities. 

I love it here, and all the people are so friendly and talk to us when they have the time. Just last night we talked to three people that we happened to run into after we picked up some garbage and went to throw it away at a store that was close by. It was a bit out of our way to go to the store, but I'm glad we did, because we had fun with them, and found out that they all liked English, and might come to our english class!
I don't have much time to write anything else! Thanks for listening to me, and for all the support you all show!
Elder _____
I can't say that I understand a lot of the conversation, but I have the innate gift for feeling the air of conversations; at least according to my companion. I am learning slowly, but I can't say I have much to complain about the language. I have much to learn though. I can't say that I've made any funny mistakes yet, but I'll be on the look out!
We have a scale here, but it's analog, not digital. We have teaspoons and tablespoons, as well as a measuring cup at the apartment, so we should be fine in that department. I'll see what I can do! Thank you so much for the recipes!
 The weird thing about the microwave here, is that it has an "oven" setting, and I can set the temperature in Celcius and everything. We do have a microwavable pan as well, as well as mugs, so we can use that recipe for sure